By Gal Sitty
Yesterday Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that his cabinet has approved the release of approximately 1,000 Palestinian prisoners in order to secure the return of kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. This announcement comes 1,934 days after Shalit was abducted, more than five years. Shalit, 19 years old at the time of capture is now 25. His friends have all finished their mandatory national service and have likely moved to college and jobs. Some may have already gotten their degrees, some might have gotten married, some may have traveled the world, some may have had to deal with their own personal family tragedies or difficulties. Gilad however has been waiting alone in captivity, in as of yet unknown conditions, forbidden to communicate with the outside world. What Gilad didn’t know but will soon find out was how an entire nation and more united unconditionally in their desire, in their demand, in their unyielding hope for his safe and speedy return to his parents Noam and Aviva Shalit.
In the summer of 2010 hundreds of thousands of Israelis marched across the country, shutting down highways and holding demonstrations throughout, for Gilad. In a country that is often hyper-segregated on issues of politics and national security this demonstration was all the more remarkable. Israelis marching for Gilad did not do so because of their political convictions, or because they wanted to advance the Peace Process, or because they wanted the release of Palestinian prisoners, or for any other reason than to end the suffering of an innocent boy who was taken from his parents and made to suffer.
This act of unity and solidarity was not a onetime event nor was it limited to Israel’s borders. Similar displays of unity happened all over the world and throughout the entire time Shalit has been held captive. Earlier this year the country again united in a moment of silence to protest his detention. A “Tweet4Shalit” campaign was organized to successfully raise awareness for the soldier online. Synagogues, Churches and other religious institutions told his story to their congregations and organized prayers for him. Cities across the world, including Paris, Rome, New York and Miami have bestowed honorary citizenship for Gilad Shalit and declared a “Gilad Shalit Day.” Many world leaders called explicitly for his immediate, safe and unconditional release.
Some people may view the deal to secure Shalit’s release as a victory for terrorists. The deal does include the release of many prisoners convicted of having murdered innocent people, however, unlike previous proposals this deal releases those dangerous individuals to the Gaza Strip as opposed to the West Bank, a less risky move for Israel. There are other aspects of the deal that may seem favorable to Hamas and indeed many believe that any deal with a murderous terrorist organization should not be agreed to. However favorable or unfavorable this deal is to Hamas there is no doubt that this is a resounding success for Israel and for supporters of human rights and dignity all over the world.
Hamas’ despicable actions not only united Israelis, Jews and other supporters all over the world, it also highlighted to the world how deplorable and inhumane this organization is. Hamas’ actions once again showed the world that it is an organization that not only operates outside the law and outside of universal human norms, but that it is also an organization unfit to be accepted by the community of nations and unfit to rule over the 1.5 million residents of the Gaza Strip.
Yesterday was indeed a day to celebrate. Israel secured the impending release of one its sons, the world saw an end to an extremely unjust and inhumane moment in its history, a terrorists organization’s true evil nature was unveiled to the world and a mother and father were once again able to dream about a promising future for their son.